COVID-19 Testing Keeps UHSP Community Safe

Published on 09 April 2021

Eric Knoll, Ph.D., vice president of operations at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis, has implemented a unique testing strategy to track COVID-19 cases in the University community, which has allowed the University to safely conduct in-person learning throughout the 2020-2021 academic year and avoid widespread transmission of the virus.

“The challenge that we faced was how to establish a fully-functional, compliant testing regimen for the campus that is reliable, robust and cost-effective,” Knoll explained. “By developing an approach grounded in proven scientific methods, we’ve been able to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep our community safe.”

As part of the testing regimen, students living on campus are tested every two weeks, while students living off-campus are placed into homeroom groups and tested by random sampling. The homeroom testing model was originally adopted by St. Louis College of Pharmacy in the fall semester with great success and was expanded to include students from the College of Arts and Sciences at the beginning of the spring semester.

“The homeroom model allows us to track the spread of COVID-19 across our campus community in an efficient and cost-effective manner,” Knoll said. “Each homeroom group is tested weekly, using a 15% random sample. Any students testing positive are removed from the homeroom group and tracked separately.”

Knoll explained that this testing model is unique among colleges and universities because it tracks the entire student body, rather than merely reporting COVID-19 infections on a case-by-case basis.

“Recently I was invited to a webinar on COVID-19 testing with representatives from several colleges and universities in the U.S.,” Knoll stated. “Of the ones attending the webinar, only a small percentage had some kind of testing strategy due to the high cost of testing. Our unique strategy has allowed us to effectively track the spread of the virus without overspending.”

Knoll selected the tests themselves for their accuracy in detecting the virus. The self-administered saliva tests are over 98% accurate and trace the COVID-19 virus in such small quantities that they identify the virus before a student begins feeling symptoms.

“Since returning to campus last fall, our COVID-19 case numbers, which are reported regularly to the campus community, have remained significantly lower than the St. Louis city average,” Knoll explained. “The policies we put in place on-campus, such as de-densifying the campus, requiring masks in campus buildings, employing daily health-screenings and enhanced sanitation practices, have mitigated the spread of the virus. These weekly tests prove that our comprehensive strategy is working.”

Read more about UHSP’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic at uhsp.edu/covid19.

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